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Herbert Spencer
by [?]

The Synthetic Philosophy was taking form in Spencer’s mind, and together they threshed out the straw and garnered the grain. She was getting to be a necessity to Spencer–and he saw no reason why the beautiful friendship should not continue just this way for years and years. Both were literary grubbers and lived in boarding-houses of the Class B variety.

And here George Henry Lewes appeared upon the scene. Legend says that Spencer introduced Lewes to Miss Evans, and both Miss Evans and Mr. Spencer were a bit in awe of him, for he was a literary success, and they were willing to be. Lewes had written at this time sixteen books–novels, essays, scientific treatises, poems, and a drama. He spoke five languages, had studied medicine, theology, and had been a lecturer and actor. He was small, had red hair, combed his whiskers by the right oblique, and wore a yellow necktie. Thackeray says he was the most learned and versatile man he ever knew, “and if I should see him in Piccadilly, perched on a white elephant, I would not be in the least surprised.”

None of the various ventures of Lewes had paid very well, but he had great hopes, and money enough to ride in a cab. He gave advice, and radiated good-cheer wherever he went.

In Eighteen Hundred Fifty-four Lewes and Miss Evans disappeared from London, having gone to Germany, leaving letters behind, stating that thenceforward they wished to be considered as man and wife. Lewes was in his fortieth year, and slightly bald; George Eliot was thirty-six, and there were silver threads among the gold.

They had taken the philosophy of “Social Statics” in dead earnest.

Herbert Spencer lost appetite, ceased work, roamed through the park aimlessly, and finally fell into a fit of sickness–“night air, and too close confinement to mental tasks,” the doctor said.

Spencer was not a marrying man–he was wedded to science, yet he craved the companionship of the female mind. Had he and Miss Evans married, he would doubtless have continued his work just the same. He would have absorbed her into his being–they would have lived in a garret, and possibly we might have had a better Synthetic Philosophy, if that were possible.

But we would have had no “Adam Bede” nor “Mill on the Floss.”

We often see mention, by the ready writers, of “mental equals” and “perfect mates,” but in all business partnerships, one man is the court of last appeal by popular acclaim. If power is absolutely equal, the engine stops on the center. Twins may look exactly alike, but one is the spokesman. In all literary collaboration, one does the work and the other looks on.

When George Henry Lewes took Mary Ann Evans as his wife, that was the last of Lewes. He became her inspiration, secretary, protector, friend and slave. And this was all beautiful and right.

I believe it was Augustine Birrell who said, “George Henry Lewes was the busy drone to a queen bee.” It probably is well that Mr. Spencer and Miss Evans did not marry–they were too much alike–they might have gotten into competition with each other.

George Eliot had a poise and dignity in her character that kept the versatile Lewes just where he belonged; and at the same time she lived her own life and preserved in ascending degree the strong and simple beauties of her character. Truly was George Eliot “a citizen of the sacred city of fine minds–the Jerusalem of Celestial Art.” Lewes was the tug that puffed and steamed and brought the majestic steamship into port.

For one book George Eliot received a sum equal to forty thousand dollars, and her income after “Adam Bede” was published was never less than ten thousand dollars a year.

Spencer lived out his days in the boarding-house, and until after he was seventy, had not reached a point where absolute economy was not in order.

Spencer faced the Universe alone, and tried to solve its mysteries. Not only did he live alone, with no close confidants or friends, but when he died he left not a single living relative nearer than the fourth generation. With him died the name.